SMITH’S LANDING, N.Y. -- State police dive teams were being sent out to search for a plane that went down Thursday afternoon in the Hudson River near the Lehigh Hanson Cement Co. in the town of Catskill in Greene County, according to authorities at the scene.
At around 5:30 p.m., state police Capt. Robert Patnaude spoke to the press and said that no one had yet been recovered from the river and only debris had been found. He said the pilot of the pontoon plane had taken off from Columbia County Airport in Hudson.
Patnaude said police believe they know the identity of the pilot and had contacted family members, but they were not releasing the pilot’s identity. He did, however, say the pilot is a local resident. He was uncertain if there were any other passengers on board.
The emergency calls came in at 4:30 p.m., reporting that a plane had crashed in the water, Patnaude said. Several witnesses, many of them fishermen, reported seeing the tip of the wing hit the water and the plane being submerged.
"Debris was found floating down the river, and they (emergency officials) believe they know where the plane hit," Patnaude said.
"They’ve marked the area and are sending state police divers and haz-mat teams down there because jet fuel dispersed," he said.
Authorities were not certain early on if the plane had just taken off or was about to land at the airport.
"He may have been practicing.
Those who witnessed the crash said the plane did not appear to be flying erratically.
"The plane went over us, going toward the north ... and came in, hit the water and pretty much disintegrated," said Christopher Malloy of Saugerties, who was fishing when he saw the plane come down.
"It looked like everything was fine ... like it was going to be a trick, like he was going to get close to the water and fly back up, but he went straight down," Malloy said.
Malloy’s friend Glen Coon, also of Saugerties, said there was no smoke or flames before the plane went down.
State Police Troop F is the lead agency investigating the crash, and members of the Federal Aviation Administration were also on hand investigating.